Laughing at Death
It seems to be a trend on social media, especially among teenagers and young “adults,” to jokingly make comments regarding death. I get it- the concept of one day leaving this Earth and going who-knows-where is scary and something everyone has to deal with. Death is a commonality between all people on Earth, regardless of sex, race, religion, or anything else, and the funniest jokes arise from concepts everyone can understand. But, how funny is death?
It is true that there are a multitude of ways to cope with grief or deal with the unknown, one of these ways being humor. It is said that laughter is the best medicine, and whether you are dealing with the loss of a loved one or have never been that close to death, joking about the unknown may bring some peace.
But, there is a line that must be drawn.
The biggest trend is joking about suicide- specifically joking about someone killing themselves as a quick solution or as a casual statement in passing. For example, “We have school tomorrow; let me just go kill myself.” I am not sure when it happened or how it happened, but at some point it became okay, and even humorous, to post so casually about something so serious. Here are some statistics: “In the United States, the rate of suicide has continued to rise since the 1950s” (Brent). More people in the general population die from suicide than drunk driving in America. “There are over 30,000 suicides each year in the United States, or about 82 each day; and each day about 1,500 people attempt suicide” (Brent). According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S. However, it is the second leading cause of death in adolescents (age 12-18).
Here’s the punch- every time you post, like, retweet, or even laugh at a post that casually suggests suicide, you are laughing right in the face of death. These blase posts belittle the problems many people face and cause them to feel even more isolated and alone than before. You may think that joking about it is bringing awareness, however it does just the opposite. Joking about a problem someone may be trying to fix is causing them to believe that their problem is smaller than everyone else’s. Joking about it may worsen the feelings of hopelessness and isolation. Joking about it may prevent people from seeking the help they need. Joking about it may lead to the pain and struggle of someone else that you do not see.
As someone who has lost someone very dear to them from suicide, I can genuinely say that the seriousness of suicide is underestimated until it hits so close to home. Like they say- “It’s all fun and games until someone actually kills himself.” How many people have to die before people start to actually talk about it? Merely posting a joke or two at someone else’s expense is not actually talking about it. Researching, providing information to others, and educating yourself are ways that can bring this serious topic into discussion. The more it is educationally discussed, the more awareness can be brought to this issue and the more we can do to help.
Suicide is a serious solution to life’s temporary problems, and it can be overcome. However, these social media posts are making it harder to bring real awareness and destroy the stigma of suicide.
Think before you post, and if you are seriously contemplating hurting yourself or someone else, seek help.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline:
"Suicide Statistics — AFSP." AFSP. American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 2017. Web. 03 Feb. 2017. https://afsp.org
David A. Brent, Emily Jane Willingham and Rebecca J. Frey
The Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine. Ed. Laurie J. Fundukian. Vol. 5. 4th ed. Detroit: Gale, 2011. p4203-4210.